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North Carolina at Center of National Debate Again, This Time Over Race

keith lamont scott

Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by police in Charlotte -- already in tumult over the anti-LGBT House Bill 2 -- only days after an unarmed black man was killed by police in Tulsa, Okla.


Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American father of seven, was killed Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., by police in the parking lot of an apartment complex. Police were on the lookout for another man to whom they were planning to issue an arrest warrant, but instead they shot and killed Scott.

Scott's family said he was sitting in his vehicle reading a book, while waiting for his son to arrive home from school, reports CNN. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, however, said Scott was carrying a gun when he stepped out of his car and that police were unable to find a book at the scene of the crime. The chief said that both evidence and eyewitness accounts point to Scott being armed.

Some witnesses, though, said Scott was unarmed. "He did not have a firearm," one man told The Charlotte Observer. A woman interviewed by the paper said she thought the police mistook the book for a gun.

The police chief, who is also black, spoke out about the backlash from activists about the killing. "It's time for the voiceless majority to stand up and be heard," the chief told CNN Wednesday.

"It's time to change the narrative because I can tell you from the facts that the story's a little bit different as to how it's been portrayed so far, especially through social media," he added.

The police chief told the media that Scott was asked to drop his gun, but he didn't follow orders. That is when Officer Brentley Vinson shot at Scott, Putney said. Vinson, also African-American, was put on paid administrative leave following the shooting, reported CNN.

Violent protests erupted in Charlotte Tuesday night in response to Scott's death, with hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the crime scene. Over 12 officers were injured during the protests, according to a tweet from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Department officials also said one officer was hit in the face with a rock and that protesters destroyed marked police vehicles.

Demonstrators stopped traffic on Interstate 85 overnight, threw rocks at cars, and started a fire, reported Mark Barber for Charlotte TV station WSOC.

Last week an unarmed black man was killed by police in Tulsa, Okla. Terence Crutcher, 40, had his hands in the air and had surrendered to police. Crutcher's car had broken down and he was waiting for assistance on the side of the road when police found him. The officer who shot Crutcher, Betty Shelby, said she believed Crutcher was under the influence of something and she felt threatened when she thought he was going for his gun. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the incident.

In North Carolina, a statewide LGBT group expressed support for Scott's family. "We are saddened that once again we are waiting for more information about a black life lost in a police-involved shooting," said an online statement from Equality North Carolina. "In this time of uncertainty, one thing is clear -- the continued violence we find in our communities must end. Our hearts are with Keith Lamont Scott's family and the people of Charlotte as they look for answers and work together towards justice after this tragic incident. It is unacceptable that these incidents of violence keep happening across the country and we are committed to doing our part of building a more fair and just society for all."

North Carolina's treatment of minority groups, racial and otherwise, has been much in the news this year. In March legislators passed and Gov. Pat McCrory signed an anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2,that prevents transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender indentity (in government buildings). It also prevents municipalities from enacting or enforcing LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinances or setting a minimum wage higher than the state's, and prevents workers from suing their place of employment for discrimination.

Jennifer Roberts, the mayor of Charlotte, decided this week not to ask the City Council to consider the repeal of the city's LGBT-inclusive public accommodations ordinance, which was nullified by HB 2.

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Yezmin Villarreal

Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.
Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.